Why Tim Schafer and Double Fine Adventure's Kickstarter success isn't as wonderful as you think (and why it is, in ways you hadn't thought of)

Publishers now have to give their audience more respect

One simple point here, but a vitally important point that publishers (I’m looking at you in particular, Ubisoft) need to acknowledge and act upon or else begin looking even more out of touch than they already do. Gamers are not vampires.

They are not leeches. They are not thieves. They do no want to steal from hard-working, creative developers. They do not begrudge paying for games.

Above: In real life, gamers are much more likely to put the money in your pocket

They want to pay for games and they want to financially support the people who make the media that they love.

So for the love of God, publishers, you can stop treating your paying customers like criminals now. You can drop your intrusive, accusational DRM. You don’t need it and we don’t want it. Get rid of it, use that as the start point from which to build a better relationship with your audience, the kind that Tim and Double Fine enjoy, and you’ll find that things end up better for all of us.

Publishers now have to realise that they might not know as much about games as they think they do

While this isn’t going to be the mighty Godzilla stomp that brings the traditional publishing model crashing to the ground, it is going to make a lot of suits sit up and start asking questions.

Questions like “I’m pretty sure that this game isn’t going to sell, but what if there are 34, 456 people out there willing to fund it on a Kickstarter? What if the developers tell me to piss off and go and fund it that way? What if it makes a profit and I’m the guy who gave that profit away?”

Questions like “Hmmm, so there is a market for smaller-scale games. Smaller outlay means smaller profit, but there is a profit. Would funding multiple smaller, more audience-specific, enthusiast-directed games be a safer financial model than putting all of my eggs in one generic, faceless, triple-A megaton basket, sending it out against Call of Duty and hoping for the best?”

Above: Homefront was THQ's most expensive game to date. It didn't do brilliantly. THQ is now in the financial shit

Questions like “Holy shit, how, during all of my high-falutin, cock-waving statements about games maturing to become the new film industry, did I miss the fact that one of the greatest signs that film had truly matured as a medium was not when it started making a shitload of money, but when independent development, promotion and distribution became much more viable and democratic by way of the internet?

“How did I neglect to acknowledge that services like LoveFilm, Netflix and Mubi now mean that agile, energetic, small-scale, innovative indie producers can now get an audience? How did I miss the fact that this is kicking the tired, rigid, sleepy old studios in the ass? How did I miss the fact that this has been building in games for years?”

You know, those sort of questions. And while none of them will change anything instantly in and of themselves, this wake-up call will see thinking change, and may well see the balance of power start to shift over time. At the very least, the best individual creatives and auteur names might start to be seen as being as important and valuable to the industry as marketing men. You know, just like they are in film.


  • Dougomite - February 13, 2012 12:17 p.m.

    Wasn't Homefront also THQ's highest grossing game to date? Not sure that's the best example. As long as people keep buying up those multi-million dollar shooters and making companies multi-billions in profit the industry won't be shifting much. But really I'm all for anything that gets more people making more varied games.
  • Balaska - February 12, 2012 1:24 a.m.

    "Would funding multiple smaller, more audience-specific, enthusiast-directed games be a safer financial model than putting all of my eggs in one generic, faceless, triple-A megaton basket, sending it out against Call of Duty and hoping for the best?” YES! I want oddball games like From Dust and Stacking. My girlfriend can't stop playing Plants Vs Zombies. Make these games and we will buy them!
  • manateesta - February 10, 2012 3:19 p.m.

    When it comes to adventure games I have never been one to play them much. I did, however, support Tim and Double fine with my own hard earned cash because of the idea. While I have no problems with the article, I remain hopeful and would like to see this as a catalyst for bigger changes in the industry.
  • Jasman - February 10, 2012 2:14 p.m.

    "Would funding multiple smaller, more audience-specific, enthusiast-directed games be a safer financial model than putting all of my eggs in one generic, faceless, triple-A megaton basket, sending it out against Call of Duty and hoping for the best?” This statement simultaneously highlights and (potentially) solves current gen's biggest problem. The 'go big or go home' model isn't working and has killed more than a few studios. We need flexible retail pricing, better audience understanding and more agile development models. Know your limits, know your audience and build an experience suited to their core desires. That's exactly what From Software did with Demon Souls, and look at the success they've had since. Rigid publishing models are slowly becoming outmoded as the game industry fragments based on how different consumers play. Laser-targeting those niche fragments is arguably the most progressive way forward.
  • BladedFalcon - February 10, 2012 11:30 a.m.

    It might not a huge or immediate-game changer. But still... If Koji Igarashi made a Kickstarter for a new 2D Castlevania game, he'd get buckets of my money thrown at him. Same goes for Michel Ancel to make a new 2D Rayman game. I honestly do like the idea behind kickstarter projects, and if this one does yield a spectacular game, it would be great if companies adopted this for their more niche, but beloved genres or franchises. And hopefully, Dave Houghton is right in that this might make big name publishers to pay more attention to what people actually want.
  • pkozyra64 - February 10, 2012 11:23 a.m.

    I don't expect the industry will change and I'm surprised this article was even written about it since I didn't think this was what some people were thinking. All I see is a bunch of fans of the point and click genre yearning for a new game and funding it since it is the only way this would ever happen.
  • Mooshon - February 10, 2012 10:42 a.m.

    Yep this isn't really an industry changer in my mind, but as a good news story this is right up there. The huge surge in money and goodwill is more an indication of peoples' admiration for Double Fine - or more specifically of Tim Schafer - than any intention to stick one in the eye of overbearing publishers. The guy is fantastic. I can't think of many other developers that would spark this level of global support. I grew up on point and click adventures; loving the hell out of Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, Full Throttle etc. The thought of a new addition by Tim/Ron and driven from pure fan passion is just mouth watering.
  • Darkhawk - February 10, 2012 10:20 a.m.

    Agreed. Tim Schafer is, well, Tim Schafer. Out-of-nowhere indies can still be massive hits (look at Minecraft's success), but this kind of campaign is likely to gain more ground with better-known developers. If Jonathan Blow Kickstarted, we'd pay; if Michel Ancel Kickstarted, we'd pay. To me, what this really means is that the niche projects we've been begging for might actually be tenable under new funding environments. I've always said the profit margin for gaming was too high, but if Ancel asked me for what amounts to a $15 (or $20, or $30) pre-order to help develop his game, I'd have a hard time saying no.
  • sirdilznik - February 10, 2012 10:02 a.m.

    I never had any illusion that this would change the industry, I'm just giddy like a schoolgirl backstage at a Justin Bieber concert because Tim Shafer, the man behind Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, and Grim Fandango, just to name a few, is going to make another point n click adventure. As a guy who grew up on point n click adventures, even before they were point n click (thing Sierra arrow keys and type stuff in adventures), this makes me immensely happy. It may be just a one time thing, but boy, what a wonderful thing it is! Now all I need is for Black Isle... err, Obsidian to revive Baldur's Gate III or better yet, make a sequel to the greatest RPG ever made, Planescape: Torment. Yeah I know, I'm just dreaming now, but they're my dreams and you can't take them away dammit! *cries*
  • FoxdenRacing - February 10, 2012 9:01 a.m.

    Dave, I owe it to you to read this about a dozen times before I respond to the content...but on a quick skim I don't see anything I disagree with and it looks very intelligently written, including both things we want to hear and things we don't. I imagine, however, that at least part of the article involves you saying pretty much everything I've been advocating for for the last 5-7 years, sometimes poorly, sometimes too vehemently, and sometimes too vaguely.
  • DannyMB - February 10, 2012 8:48 a.m.

    Dave, you've pretty much summed up my thoughts on the whole Schafer/Kickstarter thing. I often think its tempting to think of ourselves, the gamers who actively participate in the wider gaming community, play a large variety of games, and support games from everyone from indie devs to massive publishers, represent the majority of the gaming community. This just isn't true. The majority of people who own a console, own it to play COD, BF3, FIFA, Madden and a bunch of other games in a similar vein. And thats why we have the current model of gaming, lots and lots of sequels and rehashes of IP's. They make money because the majority of people who buy these games are "uneducated" on just whats available out there on these platforms. Big publishers aren't going to be worried by this Schafer/Kickstarter thing, because the average COD/FIFA gamer will never hear about it and definitely wont care about it, and that sadly is where most of the big money in games comes from. But like Dave says, hopefully it'll make them think a little longer about giving games that don't involve shooting and different shaped balls a second chance.
  • bass88 - February 10, 2012 9:53 a.m.

    I think the point is that publishers might now be more willing to fund niche games. Obviously they will be low budget but profit, albeit small, is guaranteed. This is similar to Hollywood mega-producer Joel Silver. He produces big blockbusters like Sherlock Holmes but also invests in lower budget fare like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Book Of Eli and Splice that cater to niche audiences. If the big film flops he has the smaller films to fall back on. Compare that to Jerry Bruckheimer - he funded so many big budget flops that he had to reboot the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise to make a quick buck.
  • Vulneratus - February 10, 2012 5:11 p.m.

    Valid point well put sir... the majority of people who play games aren't actually "gamers" in the true sense of the word (and concurrently wouldn't contribute to a site like Gamesradar i might add) I don't mean to offend anyone who buys the blockbuster releases here, as like any industry there is indeed valid reasons to their success and i know many gamers who list particular big releases as their most anticipated (myself included although I must admit I have never truly understood what the fuss is about COD tbh I couldn't care less anymore) I do count among my friends several casual gamers however who would not look beyond these, and while I may expound on the finer points of the medium and garner some interest I don't often see it manifest into anything and I know they wont discover the full depth of the medium (their loss) Perhaps it's just something that will evolve and play out over a long period of time because at the end of the day we (the true "gamers" who want to discover and experience new genres and ways of interactive storytelling) are going to be the ones in it for the long haul, we're going to be the ones who will be willing to shell out (not just now, but in the distant future) for a new release that pushes the medium yet further and now matter how much revenue a blockbuster title may generate in the short term they will simply never garner that much loyalty in the long term. By their very nature they must follow the trends, not set them... TLDR
  • DirkSteele1 - February 10, 2012 8:31 a.m.

    We as the games playing (and buying) community have to take responsibility for this in the first place. For too long now, a very large majority would rather buy the next iteration of FIFA/COD etc where there are minor tweaks/new team line ups but the game is essentially just an evolution rather than buy something truly innovative and original. Glad to see that the same community however, has rallied so quickly to raise a nice clip of cash to get the wind in the sales of Tim Schafer's next project.
  • christian-shaffer - February 10, 2012 11:34 a.m.

    I personally would divide the gaming audience into two categories. There are the legitimate gamers that play a large variety of games other than the typical FPS or sport game and then there are the ones that buy a console simply to use it as a family system or to play specific games with little to no interest in trying something new and innovative. I don't believe you can really blame gamers. Yes, I do buy COD, but in the past 20 years of my life, I have spent just as much, if not more, money on indie/downloadable games as I have on big budget games like COD. I know far more people that will only play FPS as opposed to a game with story, than I do any other type of gamer. Simply put, I believe true gamers are the minority. Also, I'm incredibly happy to see that Tim Schafer is getting the support and recognition he deserves and I hope the current plans for Psychonauts 2 pan out so I can finally play a sequel to one of my favorite games of all time. While I'm at it, I am in no way bashing anyone that prefers to only play a certain type of game, but I classify a gamer as someone who has a higher appreciation of the art form than most others.

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